After my husband and I got married and bought our first house, we loved to entertain.

People knew if there was a big game to watch or a celebration to be had, we were most likely going to make our house a destination for it.

I remember a day prior to one of those shindigs when only 12 of the 45 people invited replied that they were coming.

I asked my husband if he could think of anyone else we could invite last-minute.

“Why do we need to invite more?” he said. “The people who are coming are great.”

I didn’t know why I needed more people . . . but I did. 

In my twenties, I NEEDED the validation of having a lot of people around me. I needed more friends. More people in my contact list. More connections for things to do. More people to comment on my Facebook posts. 

Today I can look back and know that I needed to put off that perception of being “liked” in order to feel good about myself . . . and those parties were just one example of that insecurity being on stage.

It didn’t take me long after having my first baby to realize how empty that need was. 

Because while it felt amazing to have so many people walk through my door for the party, when my heart was full of fear, doubt and exhaustion in its new journey . . . there weren’t many of them I felt could call. 

While I had a lot of social media friends, not many of them were showing up in my living room for a good heart-to-heart chat.

While I had a lot of connections, I was still feeling incredibly isolated.

While I had a lot of people in my contact list, I couldn’t tell you a thing about what drove them and what kept them up at night.

I had the validation of feeling liked, but I yearned for the friendships that made me feel alive.

The ones where the game of ping-pong conversation of joys and struggles would leave a spectator with a sore neck, and leave that same person bored if they were looking for a game of apologies and excuses . . . because forgiveness and grace were a given between us.

Today, not only have I learned to value myself despite the number of people in the room, I have understood the value of real, raw, back-and-forth friendships.

And because of it, my parties are now a little smaller.

Sometimes they’re hosted in an hour-long phone call where one of the two attendees is refereeing a sharing fight while the other one is telling a story. Sometimes they happen at my kitchen table over two cups of coffee while we try to talk louder than the shrieks of our kids playing in the other room. Other times they happen over appetizers at a restaurant because after six months of saying, “We really need that girls night,” we FINALLY DID that girls night.

It’s in those moments I wish I could go back and tell that in-her-twenties girl to find some gratitude. To stop looking for last-minute invitations to fill the room, and start to discover some self-worth to fill her soul.

Instead . . . I’ll thank her.

Because she walked the path that led to who I am today—someone who has learned not only to value herself, but to value the handful of people who show up in a friendship . . . and don’t need an invitation to do it.

Brea Schmidt

Brea Schmidt is a writer, speaker and photographer who aims to generate authentic conversation about motherhood and daily life on her blog, The Thinking Branch. Through her work, she aims to empower people to overcome their fears and insecurities and live their truth. She and her husband raise their three children in Pittsburgh, PA.